July 29, 2013
This month’s trip was full of unexpected events. My first task was to temporarily remove cameras from the Viviendo con Felinos ranches, in order to prevent damage during the upcoming monsoon season. We’ve had cameras malfunction and break during the rainy season these past few years, since most of the best camera locations are close to streams. The water levels rise and flood the cameras; flooding also makes the roads impassable and camera sites difficult to reach. So we decided to remove the cameras from the ranches in the months with the highest rainfall (July and August). We’ll put them back in September, when the summer rains end.
Something I noticed on this trip was what appeared to be an increase in predation of white-tailed deer. I noticed a number of deer skeletons as I traveled through the ranches. The ranchers told me that coyotes killed the majority of these deer. A vaquero at Bábaco said he repeatedly observed coyotes hunting deer, including once when coyotes cornered a deer near the ranch house. Deer with large antlers are easier prey, since the antlers get stuck in the undergrowth, and they cannot escape.
Without a doubt, something that caused a lot of tension for everyone who works on the Northern Jaguar Reserve was the small wildfire at Babisal, at a place called Los Callejones. We realized there was a fire while we were checking cameras at Las Cuevas. We were driving down the road, saw smoke on the highest hills close to El Zarco, and observed the fire advancing. The next day we removed any cameras that could have been damaged if the fire spread and wrote down the general coordinates in order to figure out the exact location. Fortunately for us and all the wildlife we protect, it started to rain, which put out the fire. Calm and tranquility returned, as it could have been much worse than it was.
Once the fire was extinguished, we took a long walk to the site where it began and measured the perimeter. Unfortunately, a lot of oak trees were lost, yet some were not as affected. It is possible that at the rate the fire progressed, there was not enough time to damage the larger oak trees.
We continued to visit the Viviendo ranches to remove cameras. The last ranch was Los Alisos, where Luis Vázquez accompanied us, and we traveled on horseback. I decided to do this because Ramón Vázquez, one of the owners, told me that the roads were in very bad shape. It was an exciting experience – I had not been horseback riding for a long time and especially not through mountainous terrain. Experiences like this make our fieldwork very enjoyable.
This is all the latest news from the ranches and our beloved Northern Jaguar Reserve. We hope to have more adventures in the months ahead, and to share a bit of life at the reserve with you.
Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps to maintain an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras on the Viviendo con Felinos ranches, inventory the ecological health of the land and water, and work with ranchers to support local wildlife.